Senators and other participants sit far apart in chairs to listen to testimony before the Senate Finance Committee inside the Old Supreme Court at the State Capitol in Denver on Dec. 1, 2020.
Public option, take two
A new legislative session is kicking off this week in Colorado, but it won’t really get going until February.
A batch of new Colorado state lawmakers will be sworn in Wednesday, and the legislature plans to pass about seven mostly minor bills this week. When they return Feb. 16, there will be backlogs of popular bills that were sidelined in the pandemic-shortened 2020 session, plus many new priorities.
Democrats are still in control, now with an expanded Senate majority. That means until at least 2022, the GOP will have its say but rarely its way.
“I think we have, as Democrats, a new opportunity to work alongside our partners at the federal level to really address the root causes of problems that so many of our constituents have been navigating,” said Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat.
Here are 10 storylines you’ll want to know about during a legislative session filled with unknowns:
Short, distanced start
Lawmakers will work quickly this week to pass time-sensitive bills and meet constitutional requirements before their break.
Democratic leaders hope by mid-February, the state’s coronavirus case counts will have gone down and more vaccines will have been distributed, including to legislators, making it safer to return.
The legislature still expects to socially distance, require visitors (though not lawmakers) to wear masks and have their temperature checked. It will also provide rapid COVID testing for lawmakers who want it. Representatives’ and senators’ desks will be separated by partitions, and capacity will be limited in various areas of the building.
In the three first days of the session, lawmakers hope to pass a bill that will allow them to participate remotely in committee hearings, according to House Speaker-elect Alec Garnett, D-Denver. They can already do that remotely for floor votes.
“We’re really not going to be focused on a robust policy agenda for these three days,” Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg of Boulder added. “These are time-sensitive things we need to get done.”
Fenberg said leaders reserve the right to change the February return date, depending on the COVID conditions. To see a list of some of the initial bills that lawmakers will take up this week, go to leg.colorado.gov/2021-bills-authorized-sponsors-pre-release.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostColorado Rep. Julie McCluskie is surrounded by protective plastic barriers that reflect the names of the representatives from the monitor on the wall in the House chambers at the Colorado Capitol in Denver during an emergency legislative session on Nov. 30, 2020. Reflected in the plastic barriers are the names of the representatives coming off the monitor in the room.
Ask nearly any lawmaker what they’re plotting for 2021, and they’ll tell you they want to do everything possible to address the coronavirus’ ripple effects.
But the public should temper its expectations, budget officials say, because there’s a limited pot of money for grants, direct payments and new programs.
The legislature enters this session with about $1.5 billion in uncommitted funds for COVID relief and any other bill that comes with a price tag. That may sound like a lot of money, …read more
Source:: The Denver Post – Politics